Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin O. Tyler to Thomas Jefferson, 14 March 1818

From Benjamin O. Tyler

City of Washington March 14th 1818


I take the liberty of addressing you on a subject which once animated your soul in the cause of Justice, and guided your hand to light the torch of Liberty, which shall guide millions yet unborn through1 the dark and benighted paths of Despotism to the temple of Freedom.—

I have executed a correct copy of the charter of our Freedom the Declaration of Independence, in which you acted a most conspicuous part, and for which the gratitude of the American people will ever be perpetuated—to you and your noble compatriots as long as Liberty shall remain on the earth. I have also made a facsimilie copy of all the signatures of those sages who declared us free, and it is now engraving on plate the same size as the original, and will be published early in April next, and Sir I should be proud of the honor (by your permission) to Dedicate it to you for the effusion of gratitude and as a tribute of respect which I entertain for a Statesman and Patriot who has received the highest honors a free and Independent people could confer in elevating you to the dignified2 station which you have filled with so much honor to yourself and this great and flourishing nation—, and when I reflect on the oppressed situation of my country when this invaluable pledge of every thing sacred was executed—and compare it with the Liberty and happiness we now enjoy (being the only free nation on earth) I cannot but exclaim,3 what American would not feel grateful to those Heroes who achieved our Independence, whose names with yours are4 engraven on the hearts of every American, and shall live until the meridian sun which reflects her brightest5 beams upon their glory shall cease to illuminate the world.—

May the Genius of that Liberty in the obtaining of which you bore so conspicuous [a part],6 watch over and protect you, in your advanced age and retirement—and may the blessings of peace health and happiness, and the gratitude of a free and grateful country attend you, is the fervent7 prayer of one who presumes to express the grateful sentiments of millions

With the highest Respect and Esteem I have the honor to be Sir Your most devoted8 Servant

Benjamin O. Tyler

P.S.  Sir
 Please accept a copy of a Eulogy written and published by me.9 I also enclose a copy of a letter of recommendation from Gov. Tompkins and several members of congress—together with a letter from Capt Patridge—a friend of mine, at the time I recd it I expected to have the honor of paying my respect to you in person but have not had the pleasure of the opportunity.
Respectfully yours &c. &c.

Benj O. Tyler

RC (CSmH: JF-BA); between first signature and postscript Tyler used his facsimile of TJ’s signature as the internal address:

; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire Monticello Virginia”; endorsed by TJ as received 24 Mar. 1818 and so recorded in SJL. Printed without postscript in City of Washington Gazette, 20 Apr. 1818, and elsewhere. Enclosures: (1) Tyler, Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington, Columbia’s Great and Successful Son: Honored be his Name (New York, 1817), consisting of twenty lines of verse and embellishments flanking a bust-length depiction of the nation’s first president in military dress (broadside in MWA; engraved by Peter Maverick). (2) Recommendation for Tyler, Washington City, 28 Feb. 1817, stating that, on the basis of both “a personal acquaintance” and the testimonials of various respectable persons, Timothy Caldwell, James Breckinridge, Ezra Baker, Thomas Moore, Isaac Tichenor, Peter H. Wendover, Jared Irwin, and Daniel D. Tompkins wished to bring Tyler to the attention of President James Monroe and the heads of the executive departments; hailing him as “one of the first penmen in the United States”; and describing him as “a Gentleman of good character, strict Integrity and highly worthy” of public patronage (Tr in MHi; in Tyler’s hand; at head of text, in parentheses: “Copy”). (3) Alden Partridge to TJ, 24 Mar. 1817.

Benjamin Owen Tyler (b. 1789), a native of Buckland, Hampshire County (later Franklin County), Massachusetts, lived in Vermont from the age of ten to twenty-four years. He taught penmanship in New York City in 1815–16 and at the United States Military Academy in the latter year before relocating to Washington, D.C. In 1818 Tyler published what he later called “the first correct copy” of the Declaration of Independence and visited Monticello, where he showed TJ’s granddaughters how to improve their writing and “make pens scientifically.” While continuing to teach proper handwriting, Tyler produced engraved portraits of famous Americans and facsimiles of their letters. In 1820 he opened a lottery office in Washington, with satellites in various northeastern cities, and operated it for at least a decade. Tyler also served on the city’s common council in 1825 and 1827. He spent several years in Massachusetts before returning by 1834 to New York, where he made a precarious living over the next dozen or so years selling a varnish invented by his wife and cleaning and restoring paintings (Willard I. Tyler Brigham, The Tyler Genealogy [1912], 1:366; Longworth’s New York Directory description begins Longworth’s American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory, New York, 1796–1842 (title varies; cited by year of publication) description ends [1815]: 415; New York Columbian, 4 Jan. 1816; Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, 1993 description ends , 193, 195; Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jane H. Nicholas Randolph, [ca. 31 July 1818] [NcU: NPT]; City of Washington Gazette, 21 July, 17 Oct. 1820; New-York Evening Post, 5 Jan. 1821; The Washington Directory [1830], 77; Andrew Rothwell, Laws of the Corporation of the City of Washington [1833], 322; Tyler, A Circular addressed to the Governor & Council and members of the Legislature of Vermont, Montpelier, Nov. 1833 [1833]; Herbert A. Johnson, Charles T. Cullen, Charles F. Hobson, and others, eds., The Papers of John Marshall [1974–2006], 12:323–5; Richmond Enquirer, 3 Apr. 1838; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 25 Oct. 1847).

1Manuscript: “though.” City of Washington Gazette: “through.”

2City of Washington Gazette: “distinguished.”

3Manuscript: “ixclaim.” City of Washington Gazette: “exclaim.”

4Manuscript: “are are.” City of Washington Gazette: “are.”

5Manuscript: “brightes.” City of Washington Gazette: “brightest.”

6Preceding two words, not in manuscript, supplied from City of Washington Gazette.

7City of Washington Gazette: “ardent.”

8City of Washington Gazette: “obedient.”

9Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Baker, Ezra; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Breckinridge (Breckenridge), James; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Caldwell, Timothy; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Congress, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Declaration of Independence; published search
  • Declaration of Independence; signers of search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington (B. O. Tyler) search
  • Irwin, Jared; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of application and recommendation to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Public Service; as president search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Maverick, Peter; as engraver search
  • Monroe, James; and appointments search
  • Moore, Thomas (of Montgomery Co., Md.); recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Partridge, Alden; introduces B. O. Tyler search
  • patronage; letters of application and recommendation to TJ search
  • Tichenor, Isaac; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Tompkins, Daniel D.; recommends B. O. Tyler search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; engraving of Declaration of Independence by search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; identified search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; introduced to TJ search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; letter of recommendation for search
  • Tyler, Benjamin Owen; letters from search
  • Washington, George; Eulogium Sacred to the Memory of the Illustrious George Washington (B. O. Tyler) search
  • Wendover, Peter Hercules; recommends B. O. Tyler search